While the holidays are largely considered a time to relax with friends and family, research suggests that the holiday months are actually a high stress time for many people — especially for working mothers who are already tasked with the demands of work on top of the "mental load" of managing a household.
According to a survey from finance staffing firm Accountemps, a whopping 35 percent of people feel more work-related pressure during the holiday season. As the CEO of Fairygodboss and a mom to three kids, I understand the stress of the holidays all too well. At work, the fourth quarter is one of the most important times of year for our business and a lot of next year planning and strategy-setting also happens in Q4. This coincides with many employees taking considerable time off for the holidays (and they should — time off has proven to make people more productive and everyone needs down time). Meanwhile, at home, holiday responsibilities like decorating your home, preparing for visiting family, buying gifts, and attending seasonal events at school or parties and celebrations with family and friends can really add up.
I've found that delegating during the holidays is an instrumental tool for maintaining my sanity during this busy time. Here are three ways that I divvy out tasks during the holidays so that I can make the most of the season — while minimizing the stress.
1. I ask my husband to pitch-in on seasonal tasks.
Sometimes your partner or spouse isn't always aware of how much you have on your plate. It's okay to ask them to take care of the household or babysit while you're running holiday errands, or vice versa. Work as a team. Communication is key to doing that.
Clear communication can be easier said than done. Cut down on necessary reminders by getting together once to lay out everything you jointly foresee as needing to be done. Then share an online calendar that lays out your plan of action and commitments. If additional responsibilities pop up, add them into the calendar and ask your partner to claim whatever they can. This cuts down on unclear expectations, arguments, and completely forgetting about that cookie decorating party you were supposed to attend at school.
2. I ask visiting relatives to help out while they're here.
If you have relatives visiting for the holidays, try to think of them as not only an additional set of people to take care of but also as helpers on deck to get everything done. Family members can be particularly helpful when it comes to tackling extra stuff to do such as holiday cooking, decorating and entertaining the kids.
For example, if you need help taking the kids to school or with violin lessons, ask your in-laws if they could lend a hand and give the kids a ride. They'll probably enjoy spending some extra time with their grandkids, and won't necessarily view this work as a burden. And even if they do realize you’re tasking them with a few chores, they love you and want to help. Don't feel bad asking for an extra hand, especially from those who you're entertaining from out of town. They owe you one as a guest you’re otherwise taking care of!
3. I ask my colleagues to take on what they can.
Asking your colleagues to help with tasks at work should always be common practice, but it's particularly important during crunch time. Chances are that some people on your team will take time off around the holidays. You'll likely be short staffed at times, and you'll be pushing to meet deadlines so you can actually enjoy your own PTO.
To handle this extra pressure, be sure to keep open communication with your colleagues about team expectations and timelines in advance. Before the holidays are too close around the corner, sit down with your supervisor (and your team, if you're a manager) a week or two before you are all in and out of the office to discuss priorities. Clarify what you must get done before your time off, then take the time to decide what's reasonable for you to get done before your deadlines and what you need to delegate or ask for help on. Offer to take on some work for your colleagues another time in exchange for their help now. This will boost your teams rapport, and allow everyone to take a turn in enjoying their time off.
If you're having a difficulty delegating at work — say, you have a large amount of responsibilities that require you specifically — find other ways your colleagues can help you save time and be more productive. Ask if that meeting is necessary, and cancel it if its not. Cancel that lunch, because Mary will understand (and may be relieved). And take Sandra up on her offer to grab you coffee on her own caffeine run.
This holiday season, consider this a reminder to allow people around you to help out. You don't need to be Wonder Woman, doing everything on your own. And remember that while the working mom guilt may hit you hard at times, it's not productive to wallow in negative self-talk or doubt. Instead, focus on delegating tasks you don't enjoy, and prioritizing the ones you do.
Myself? I'll be reminding my team that they need to run the new analytics system this week, and I'll be decorating my tree with my favorite holiday tunes on in the background.
Georgene Huang is co-founder and CEO of Fairygodboss.